It's odd that discussions of North Central Vermont restaurants fail to mention Conoscenti in Montpelier. IMHO it is a wonderful little restaurant with a very sophisticated, very personal take on Italian food. The Chef/Owner, Dale Conoscenti, made the national news a few years back for the high quality lunch program he developed for the Barre school system (strawberry soup, anyone?).
My wife and I dined there on our anniversary. For starters, we split a very unusual caesar salad. It was really two salads, one nestled inside the other. The outer salad was a traditional caesar salad made more interesting by a garnish of mild spanish anchovies, dipped in tempura batter and lightly fried. The inner salad consisted of finely chopped olives and other vegetables, lightly dressed with fruity olive oil and nested inside a delicately curved parmesan crisp. The whole thing was a wonderful interplay of contrasting textures, gutsy Mediterranean flavors, and refined presentation.
For our main course we had the lobster ravioli (really a single giant raviolo). It was served on a bed of sauteed spinach, surrounded by a pureed butternut squash sauce, and drizzled with truffle oil. A simple, yet utterly luxurious dish.
Desserts included a warm apple crostini (big enough for two) and wonderful homemade ice creams. (Dale also worked for awhile in the R&D department at Ben & Jerry's.) Dessert was accompanied by illy espresso and one of the nuttiest vin santos I've ever tasted.
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